Monday, July 26, 2010

BP's defense of Alaska pipeline safety is not reassuring

Assurances from British Petroleum, owner of the largest stake in the Alyeska consortium that operates the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, that the 800-mile oil pipeline is not deteriorating dangerously have apparently not satisfied congressional investigators looking into reports of inadequate maintenance. After all, the consortium's managing partner is BP, the company responsible for the catastrophic oil spill caused when a deep-water drill rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April, killing 11 workers. To its credit, BP has agreed to cover the cost of restitution and placed $20 billion in escrow for expected damage claims stemming from the Gulf spill. But BP has made no such offer for the deteriorating pipeline. According to Cable News Network (CNN), a little-reported spill of 5,000 gallons of oil on the ground near Delta Junction, Alaska, has reignited concerns about the safety of the pipeline. "There's incident after incident within the last six months (that) might seem like small things, but when you put them all together, in a relatively short period of time, it really tells you how poorly this pipeline is being maintained," Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Michigan, told CNN. The news service also said an unnamed source said deferred maintenance year after year was endangering the pipeline. Officials have refused to allow CNN to videotape near the site of the spill, the news service said. Alyeska's vice president of operations, Mike Joynor, told CNN that the pipeline was safe and said he was unaware of any incident involving a CNN news crew. Joynor said Alyeska was investigating the spill. He said Alyeska was developing rules to avoid such incidents in the future but that the rules would not be made public. "We stick to what our core values are: safety, integrity, environmental protection and protection of a safe workforce," Joyner said.

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